A light is considered “activated” the moment a contact is made between two legally licensed and operating stations exchanging call signs from and to the light, provided that the activator is physically present at the light or falls within the guidelines of the “Visual Sight Rule.” The activating station give out the ARLHS lighthouse number during the QSO, and the name and ARLHS number must be placed prominently on the QSL card confirming the contact in order for the recipient to get award credit for working the light.

For awards, contests, end special events, we are often asked what constitutes “activating a light.” In this situation it sometimes depends on the rules of the contest. It is preferable, of course, that a station be set up on the physical premises of a lighthouse or lightship. This is often possible with lights that have been removed from the Coast Guard’s “active light” list. Many of these are located in public parks and so are readily available. Many ops park their vehicle in the parking lot and work from there. Others have set up on a nearby picnic table. It is always wise, of course, to let the perk ranger know of your intentions first -~ just in case there should be any official objection. Most authorities are fascinated with the prospect of a lighthouse radio station and really go out of their way to accommodate end assist the ham. As long as you are within visual sight of the light and are operating legally, you have “activated” that light.

Many lights are owned by private individuals or organizations. In these cases it is imperative that you obtain permission (preferably written) from the proper authority, Since many organizations have taken over the preservation of an old light, they are often eager for the publicity and for a chance to “lure” the public to the light for fundraising. A ham station adds to the attraction, and so organizations are often very cooperative in granting permission to operate from the light or the property itself. Even if permission is not obtainable, that light can still be activated as described above, as long as you are located within visual sight of that light, even though not actually on its property.

In the case of light that is still in active duty, it is a rare instance when the Coast Guard will give permission to board such a light. It is usually up to the commandant of the district but in our experience, unless he/she is familiar with ham radio, you are usually treated (courteously) as a memĀ­ber of the general public and are denied access. Even in cases where access is granted (and there have been some instances where this has happened), the ham group is often asked to post a bond or have insurance, and the cost of that is sometimes a deterrent. However, as in the situations described earlier, it is not necessary to set foot on the light or property. You can operate anywhere within the visual range of the light and still be considered “legit” In the case of lights on pilings in the bay, for example, we very often anchor our boat safely nearby and “activate” the light while operating marine mobile. Under NO circumstances should you ever board government property even “just to look around” without the expressed written permission of the appropriate authority.

So, while physical presence on a light’s property is certainly desirable, it is not mandatory; and any station within the visual area served by the light’s beacon is considered, for our purposes, as “activating” a light. Note, however, that some events do not recognize contacts or activations unless the activator is physically present on the lighthouse property. You are advised to always consult the event’s rules and guidelines before claiming credit for contacts to and from lights in such events.

NOTE #1: For the sake of completeness, here is a quote from the Rules and Regulations for the ARLHS Awards Program with regard to Activating a light:

“To be recognized as a valid lighthouse activation, physical presence on the property or within the light structure itself is preferred. However, there are extenuating circumstances where this may not be possible. Consequently, the ARLHS additionally recognizes stations operating under the “1000-Meter Rule.” Briefly stated, this rule says that any operation within a 1000 meter distance (1100 yards or 3300 feet) of the light is valid, subject to the following
Exception: If, in the opinion of the operator, operation within the “1000-Meter Rule” would be (a) illegal, (b) ill-advised, (c) impossible, or (d) impractical, then the distance rule is suspended and the “Visual Sight Rule” can be invoked and shall apply. Under the terms of the “Visual Sight Rule,” an operation is valid if the station is within visual sight of the physical structure of the light during the day or the “reach” of its light beacon at night. We find this to be consistent with our stated purpose of recognizing a light according to the geographic area served by it for mariners.”

NOTE #2: The visual rule will not apply to an historical site since there is usually no physical embodiment to see. Even if there is a remnant, You must actually be present on the site, or immediately adjacent to the site, at the exact Lat/Lon of the original light. In the case of historical lights in open bodies of water, you must anchor within a reasonably safe distance to the light’s last known Lat/Lon.
Viewing an historical site from a distance does not qualify just because there was at one time a light there. To activate an historical site, you will have to go to the actual site of the original light.

NOTE #3: DISCLAIMER
While every attempt is made to be accurate, the information contained on this web site, including, but not limited to, names, locations, spellings, and latitude/longitude coordinates, are for informational and research purposes only and are not to be used for the purpose of navigation or in any other critical application. The ARLHS, its members and officers, its assigns and agents, are held harmless from any and all use, misuse, or misinterpretation of the data presented herein, as well as for any and all activities of its members or other representatives. This includes meetings, activations, and activities performed or conducted under the name, symbol. logo, or acronym of the society.